Until about a month ago, I had been ignoring the lump in my breast. I pretended it wasn't there. Or I justified it; 90% of lumps are cysts. It's a cyst. Just a cyst. Sometimes I spoke harshly to it. "FUCK OFF! I HAVEN'T GOT TIME FOR YOU!"
But it was resolute. It stayed. And so, after Googling the absolute arse out of it, I went to the GP.
My GP is a lady. It is odd, but not unpleasant, having a lady wobble your tits about. In fact, if the surroundings had been a bit more conducive, I might have got a bit too comfortable. But as it was, I just looked out of the window, and wished I was elsewhere.
She was lovely, and sensitive, and said it was probably nothing, and certainly probably very likely not to be Cancer. I liked that she'd said 'Cancer'. It's now out in the open, and makes it a shed load easier to both vocalise and think about.
The Government line is that breast clinics have to see you within two weeks of referral. Where I live, it's like a sort of triage appointment, when they decide if you properly might have Cancer, or if you've just got lumpy tits.
The waiting room for the breast clinic is one of the most remarkable places. The appointments were running late, so it was choc-a-bloc with women. All sorts of women; young, old, middling. Some in work-attire, some in joggers. Some on their own, some with mothers and daughters - and one girl with her entire circle of friends around her. The sense of camaraderie or... togetherness, was palpable. I liked it. If I hadn't been so effing worried, I might have stayed all day.
I got called in by a lovely nurse ("So, so sorry for the delay") and did the usual drill for the young, male doctor. Questions answered, top off, bra off.
It's a very strange thing having a man you've never met before feel your tits - in such depth. Imagine the scene. The nurse is standing up by the wall, smiling at you. You are sitting on the trolley, legs dangling, naked from the waist up. A man is crouching in front of you, squashing and touching and squeezing every bit of your mammaries that he can lay his hands on. And yet, you're talking about the weather, your children, the fact that you've had a cold since July, what music you like. You can't look at the man, because somehow that would create intimacy, so you look at the wall on the left. And when he's focusing on the left breast, you look at the wall on the right.
I will probably never see this man again, this man who has fondled my breasts so rigorously.
Clothes on, and more talking. More vocalising the word 'Cancer'. "I don't think it's cancer," he said, "but just to cross the T's and dot the I's, we'll get you in for a mammogram, a scan and a biopsy."
"GOOD-O!" I shouted, suddenly, it seemed, one of The Famous Five.
And I was pleased, in part. Pleased that the ball was rolling, and that at least I was now in the system. I felt looked after. I felt like I'd fallen off the high wire, only to be caught in the safety net. And by that, I don't mean that I felt well - I just felt like I had handed the weight of responsibility for my own health over to these doctors and nurses. And that was comforting.
So, on Tuesday, I'm off again to the breast clinic to have my already, frankly, tiny breasts squeezed and sliced. I have told a handful of people, and they have all offered to come with me. They are very kind, but I feel that there is enough support there - in the wonderful NHS staff of course, and all the ladies in that waiting room who share the same worries as me.
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